By Agence France-Presse
Democratic prosecutors declaring “no one is above the law” went head to head with White House lawyers as closing arguments wrapped up at President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, setting the stage for his likely acquittal on Wednesday.
“You can’t trust this president to do the right thing,” chief House prosecutor Adam Schiff said in an emotional speech on the Senate floor on Monday at the end of the two-week trial.
“Truth matters little to him,” the California lawmaker told the 100 members of the Senate who will decide Trump’s fate. “What’s right matters even less and decency matters not at all.
“He will not change and you know it,” Schiff said of the former New York real estate tycoon turned politician. “Now do impartial justice and convict him.”
White House lawyers flatly rejected the arguments that Trump — just the third president in US history to be impeached by the House of Representatives — should be removed from office by the Senate for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
“The president has done nothing wrong,” White House counsel Pat Cipollone said, calling the impeachment by the Democratic-led House “purely partisan and political.”
“We put our faith in the Senate,” he said.
“End the era of impeachment once and for all,” Cipollone said, arguing that the American people — not the Senate — should decide whether Trump remains in office.
Jay Sekulow, another of Trump’s lawyers, said the House impeachment was “reckless” and urged the Senate to acquit.
“The bottom line is that the president’s opponents don’t like the president and they don’t like his policies,” Sekulow said.
– ‘Cheat’ –
The Senate is to vote at 4:00 pm (2100 GMT) on Wednesday and the Republican president is all but certain of being acquitted.
Republicans hold 53 seats in the Senate to 47 for the Democrats, but a two-thirds majority, or 67 senators, is needed to remove a president from office.
Trump is scheduled to deliver his nationally televised “State of the Union” speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday and has voiced no plans to delay until after the Senate vote.
The House of Representatives impeached Trump on December 18 for withholding $391 million in military aid to Ukraine to demand that Kiev open an investigation into his potential November election rival, Democrat Joe Biden.
Schiff urged senators to find “courage to stand up” to the president.
“When the president tries to coerce an ally to try to help him cheat in our elections and covers it up we must say enough,” he said. “He has compromised our elections and he will do so again.”
Colorado lawmaker Jason Crow, another House prosecutor, said impeachment was an “extraordinary remedy.”
“It is in the Constitution for a reason,” he said. “In America, nobody is above the law, even those elected president of the United States.”
Crow told the senators their votes would echo through history.
“What you decide on these articles will have lasting implications for the future of the presidency, not only for this president, but for all future presidents,” he said.
– Iowa caucuses –
With the focus shifting to the final vote, all eyes will be on whether any Democrats facing potential tough re-election battles in November will vote to acquit the president.
Democratic Senator Doug Jones, for example, is facing what is shaping up to be a tough re-election fight in Alabama, a state which voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016.
West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, a Democratic senator in a heavily Republican state, said he was “struggling” with how to vote on impeachment but he believed there would be bipartisan support for a censure motion of the president if one was offered.
Final arguments in the trial came as voters held caucuses in Iowa to begin the process of choosing a Democratic candidate to face Trump in November.
Former vice president Biden is among the front-runners in Iowa along with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, whose campaigning in the Midwestern state has been hamstrung by the requirement that they remain in Washington for the impeachment trial.
As the Democratic prosecutors addressed the somber Senate chamber, Trump lashed out on Twitter. “I hope Republicans & the American people realize that the totally partisan Impeachment Hoax is exactly that, a Hoax,” he said.
Final arguments were held on Monday after Democrats failed last week in a bid to introduce new witnesses and documents into the trial.
Only two Republicans — Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine — joined Democrats as the motion to introduce witnesses was defeated 51-49.
Democrats had been eager to hear from Trump’s former national security advisor John Bolton and other key administration figures caught up in the scandal.
Bolton reportedly says in an upcoming book that Trump told him military aid to Ukraine was tied to Kiev’s investigating Biden — corroborating the central accusation against the president.